Conference Reimbursement Procedure

If you attend a conference using a source of funding, your expenses are covered. The general procedure is that you pay for everything yourself, you collect receipts, and then you get reimbursed for these expenses after the conference concludes. When you return, you need to submit all of your documentation through Concur (the electronic system used by the University), and deliver your physical receipts to your administrative coordinator. The funds will then be released to you after your files have been processed. If you need money to pay for fees before you leave, you can also request a cash advance.

Administrative Coordinators

Each faculty member is assigned an administrative coordinator. This person is responsible for submitting and processing expense claims.

The current administrative coordinator for all CrySP members as of Winter 2019 is:

Gregory McTavish
Email: gmctavish
DC 2114
Last updated 2017-03-01

Travel Policy

The rules for travel expenses, including the procedures and what is covered, are contained in Policy 31. In general, all expenses necessary for you to attend the conference will be covered. This includes travel, conference fees, meals, lodging, and more. However, you may encounter edge cases that are not explicitly by the policy. If in doubt, you should ask your supervisor first. If your supervisor does not know the answer, contact their administrative coordinator.

Some important highlights from the travel policy:

  • "Personal expenses", such as ATM fees, are not covered.
  • Visa or consolate expenses necessary to complete the trip are covered.
  • Never borrow a friend's vehicle to make a trip. In most cases, you should use taxis or rented cars (see our Travel Tips). If you are using a private vehicle, the university requires a certain amount of third-party liability insurance. Refer to the full policy if you are in one of these non-standard situations.
  • Cancellation insurance for flights is covered and is encouraged.
  • Nearly every funding source requires you to book economy / coach class for flights (for students, it is extremely rare to have a funding source for business class). In general, you should book the cheapest direct flight with a reasonable schedule. However, representatives from the Finance department have said that Air Canada Tango and Flex flights will always be considered coverable (note: this claim has not been tested by anyone).

Before The Trip

Well in advance of the conference, you will need to pay your largest fees. Depending on the conference, this typically includes the flights, the hotel, and the conference registration. Some conferences, such as Oakland, also have additional fees such as IEEE student membership dues. In all cases, you will eventually need digital copies of your receipts. Save PDF copies of your online receipts, either as they appear on the websites, or from email receipts that you receive. If you would like reimbursement for these expenses now instead of after the trip, there is a very simple advance process.

You should also read the list of Travel Tips before you depart.

At the end of your trip, you will need to prepare a Concur submission. If you would like to get a head start on this work, you can create and update a draft submission before and during the conference. If you want to do this, read the rest of this page and start a new submission on Concur before leaving. Concur has apps for mobile devices that will allow you to upload documentation while traveling, so you don't need to wait until you return.

If you have not previously logged into/set up an account in Concur (the University's reimbursement system), you will likely want to start this process before the conference, as it will add a nontrivial amount of processing time before you can begin any submissions. At the very minimum, attempt logging in, and if you are unable to, contact your Administrative Coordinator for help setting up an account. Once you can log in, the initial setup detailed below is relatively minor.

During The Trip

Receipts

Make sure that you keep original receipts for all expenses. This includes transit fees and food expenses. Get receipts for everything you buy; ask for receipts if they are not offered to you initially.

A complete receipt includes the following information (in order of importance):

  1. Payment amount
  2. Date
  3. Vendor name
  4. Itemized details of the purchase
  5. Student/buyer name
  6. (For Canadian businesses) Business registration number
For "low value" purchases, most of this information can be omitted. At a minimum, the receipt should have the amount, date, and vendor name. High value purchases (e.g., flights) should have all of this information in the receipt.

The Finance department also provides a definition of original receipts.

Meals

There are two different ways of claiming meal expenses: actual amounts, and per diems. Per diems are daily allocations of funds for meals that do not depend on the actual amounts you spend. You can always claim actual amounts. Depending on your funding sources, you may or may not be permitted to claim per diems. Specifically, students receiving funding from the Ontario government may not claim per diems and must always claim actual amounts. Ask your supervisor to determine whether or not you are eligible for per diems. In theory, when claiming per diems you do not need to obtain meal receipts. However, we recommend obtaining receipts for all meals even if you plan to claim per diems—especially for your first conference—just in case you later discover that you are not eligible.

To claim actual amounts, you will need to provide receipts for every meal. These receipts must be itemized in order to show that you did not purchase forbidden items (e.g., alcohol).

Whether you are claiming per diems or not, you will not be reimbursed for meals that are provided by the conference unless you are attending a meal with non-CrySP people for purposes related to research (in which case, be prepared to state who attended the meal, what you talked about, and why it was relevant to your research).

When dining with other people and not claiming per diems, the easiest thing to do is to ask for separate, itemized bills. However, if you do get a single receipt for multiple people, this can still be handled. If this happens, have one student submit the combined receipt with annotations detailing the student associated with each item. The other students will need to reference this combined receipt in their reimbursement package (e.g., "Aunty's Kitchen, Butter Chicken, 3.49 CAD, part of Alice's receipt").

Common Mistakes

Here are some common "gotchas" that could make your reimbursement claim more difficult:

  • You need receipts for taxi rides. Typically, drivers will not give you a receipt unless you explicitly ask for one. They will also often try to give you receipts that are missing critical information; make sure that the receipt they give you has the total cost as well as the date. Taxi rides are one of the most expensive parts of attending a conference, so make sure that you get those receipts!
  • Keep your boarding passes (those are the slips that get stamped at the airport). If you don't have them, you may have difficulty claiming your flight expenses!
  • In some places, receipts are rarely itemized, so you will need to explicitly ask for this. This can be difficult; many places require you to ask for itemized receipts before the receipts are printed, while many vendors will get angry at you for asking for itemized receipts. Sometimes, these properties overlap. If you plan to be reimbursed for these purchases (typically food) and they are not covered by per diems, then you will need to deal with this social awkwardness.
  • If you pay for something with a credit or debit card, then you will need both the itemized receipt and the card transaction receipt.
  • Hotels don't normally charge your card until you check out. Make sure that you get an itemized hotel bill showing a zero balance—again, this shows that you didn't use funds to purchase forbidden hotel services. A hotel booking confirmation is not a receipt.

After The Trip (Using Concur)

Starting the Electronic Submission

Now is the hard part: you will need to assemble an electronic reimbursement package. This package is meant to be a self-contained set of documentation that explains how the trip is relevant to your research, and why it is eligible for reimbursement. Your decisions and documentation should make sense to an auditor examining the package several years in the future.

Amass all of your receipts and documentation. If you have physical receipts or documentation, use a scanner to produce electronic copies. Save the physical receipts and other documentation even after you are done scanning them.

Log in to Concur. If this is your first time using Concur, you must do some initial setup:

  1. Go to your "Profile Settings" in the top right of the page and enter the "Personal Information" page. Add/edit your email address and complete the email verification process.
  2. Go to the "Expense Delegates" page in your Profile Settings. Add your supervisor's administrative coordinator (see coordinators) as an expense delegate. The details should auto-complete as you type the coordinator's name. Check the "Can Prepare" and "Can View Receipts" permission checkboxes and click "Save".
  3. Go to the "Expense Approvers" page in your Profile Settings. Set your supervisor as your default approver for expense reports and cash advance requests. The name should auto-complete as you type it in. Click "Save".
Concur logically separates information into two parts: receipts and reports. Receipts are scanned documents that you upload. Receipts are initially attached to your account, but are not associated with any reports (they are in your "receipt store"). Reports are reimbursement claims for specific trips. Reports contain multiple expenses, which are things that you paid for and for which you expect reimbursement. Expenses may have zero or more receipts attached to them (at which point they are removed from your "receipt store").

If you have not done so already, upload all of your receipts and other documents to your receipt store.

Now you can start a claim for your trip. Click on the "Start a Claim" button. Fill out the report header:

  • Report Name: name of the conference and location (e.g., PETS Conference, Germany).
  • Claim Period From/To: the start/end date of travel.
  • Expense Report Type: Travel-General
  • Purpose: a brief description of the purpose for the trip, and why it should be covered. Something like "attended academic conference in my research area". You will need to include a lengthier purpose as part of an "Additional Documentation" expense; see below for more details.
  • Org Unit, Activity, Fund, Fund Class, Project, Product, Phase: leave default
  • Research Affiliation: Grad Student
  • Comment: use if you need to describe something unusual. Note that you will be able to attach supplemental documentation later.

Adding Documentation

Next, use the report interface to add expense entries for everything. The Concur interface is mostly straightforward, but there is a "Help" section at the top of page and tooltips in case you find any features confusing.

Use the "Comment" field for expenses to explain unusual situations or to justify decisions. You can also add an "Additional Documentation" expense for the sole purpose of attaching extra documentation unrelated to specific expenses. Do not use ampersands ("&") in your comments, since they are known to break the interface for some users. Alternative approach: use ampersands in your comments, find the XSS vulnerability, and get a free CVE!

When adding an expense, you can use the "Attach Receipt" button to attach a receipt from your receipt store. This button will only allow you to attach one receipt, but you can attach more to the expense after it has been created. After adding the expense, select it from the list and use the "Attach Receipt" button to add another document. If you lost a receipt, you can sign and submit a "Missing Receipt Affidavit" (see the relevant financial policy). The Concur website has additional information about this process in the "Company Notes". This process is extremely annoying and is intended only for rare circumstances, so try your best to avoid losing receipts!

Expense items for flights require you to attach scanned copies of your boarding passes in addition to the flight receipt.

If you shared a hotel room with another student, make a note of this in the "Comment" section of the expense.

Typically, you will have paid for some expenses in a currency other than CAD. For these expenses, you must enter the amount in the original currency (e.g., USD or EUR). The system will automatically apply a conversion rate based on historic tables, which almost certainly isn't the amount that you actually paid. If you attach an excerpted bank statement showing the actual amount you were charged in CAD, then you can override the "Rate" field in the expense in order to receive precise reimbursement.

If you are entering actual meal costs, add "Meal for Self" or "Meal with Attendees" expenses for every meal, and attach the receipts.

If you are claiming per diems, use the "Per Diem - Canada" or "Per Diem - Other" expense types. If you had meals in Canada and abroad, you should have both "Per Diem - Canada" and "Per Diem - Other". Download the "Optional Per Diem Calculator" spreadsheet from the "Company Notes" section on the main Concur page. Although it is "optional", auditors tend to make it required quite frequently. Note that the spreadsheet has two worksheets, and the default is the old version of the layout. Use the "Version Two" worksheet and follow the instructions to fill in the eligible meals. Record all of the meals that were not included as part of the conference. The worksheet will compute the "Claimable Number of Per Diems", which is the number that you should enter in the "Number of days" field in Concur. Attach a PDF version of the "Version Two" worksheet to the Per Diem expense.

When saving a per diem expense, the "Amount" field will be automatically computed. You must not change this value directly. Note that depending on how things are set up, you may receive a red exception on the item saying that "Per diem is not permitted on the expense account at the entry level". Do not despair! Simply ignore this error; if it appears, the administrative coordinator will correct it for you later.

An example per diem calculation: let's say that you're attending a conference that takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday. You fly to the conference on Monday afternoon, and return Thursday morning. The conference includes breakfast and lunch on both days. In this case, you would claim 0.75 (lunch + dinner) for Monday, 0.5 for Tuesday (dinner only), 0.5 for Wednesday (dinner only), and 0.5 for Thursday (breakfast and lunch). Thus, the "Number of days" field would have a value of 2.25.

As part of your expense report, you must include information about the conference. This means a copy of the conference website (just the homepage, as evidence that the conference actually existed), and a complete copy of the program (in order to show which meals were included). Attach PDF printouts of the conference webpage as part of an "Additional Documentation" expense. If you gave a talk at the conference, highlight your talk or use the "Comment" field to point it out to the reader.

The auditors now require more extensive trip purposes in claims; you must include a longer trip purpose in an "Additional Documentation" expense. You can enter this purpose directly in the "comment" field of the expense. The following purposes have been approved by NSERC and can be used as templates, depending on the nature of your research travel:

  • Presented a paper at the annual name conference. The paper was collected data or dissemination of research findings which were directly related to my research.
  • Attended the name conference for purposes of collaboration and networking; topics covered were directly related to my research.
  • Attended the name conference for purposes of collaboration and networking; this is the largest annual conference on topic and many of the top researchers in this field attend. The conference topic is directly related to my research.

Finishing Up

Once you have finished adding expenses, DO NOT PRESS THE "SUBMIT REPORT" BUTTON IMMEDIATELY. You should now send an email to your supervisor's administrative coordinator to say that you are ready to submit an expense report. They will look at the report and let you know if anything needs to be changed. Once you have explicitly received permission from the coordinator (as an email from them, an email from concur notifying "Report Ready for Submission", or both), you SHOULD submit the report.

At this point, you will need to bring all of your physical documentation such as original receipts to the coordinator's office. They will normally have an envelope to put your papers in, so you can just hold them together with paper clips until you get there.

Getting Paid

The Concur system involves multiple processing phases once you have submitted the report. If an error is noticed at any point, the report will be returned to you for correction. You will receive multiple emails as the report passes through the various phases. After the administrative coordinator (the "expense delegate" or "preparer" in Concur parlance) has told you to submit, the report is sent to a Concur auditor. This is a random Concur employee based in the USA. This person will check your report for surface-level issues like legibility problems or other obvious discrepancies. Next, the report is sent to the "Previewer", who is an administrative staff member in the CS department. This person reviews the expenses for completeness and other "smoke tests". The report is then sent to your supervisor ("expense approver" in Concur parlance) for approval. After your supervisor approves, the report is sent to Research Compliance to ensure that the expenses do not violate rules for use of research funding. After that, the report is released to the Finance department, which performs the final fund authorization (i.e., they pay you).

Advance Reimbursement

It is possible to ask for money before leaving for a trip in order to cover some of your expenses. You will need to fill out an advance claim on Concur. Note that doing this increases your total amount of paperwork, since you still need to make your post-trip claim as you normally would. However, the advance claim is a much simpler process than the final claim. To file, first log into Concur, setting up your account if needed as described above. Click on the "Cash Advance" button. Fill out all the fields:

  • Cash Advance Name: The name of the advance (probably the conference name).
  • Cash Advance Amount: The total amount you are asking for in the advance, in either CAD or USD. This should typically be approximately the sum of things you've already paid for, e.g. the flight and conference registration fees. You usually should not include the hotel, as it typically isn't charged until after you arrive. Make sure to use a total that is less than what you will be claiming in the final claim, after the trip.
  • Purpose: The purpose of the trip.
  • Cash Advance Comment: Specify what the advance is covering, e.g., the flights and conference registration fees.
  • Advance Start/End Date: The dates you'll be at the conference.
  • Location: Location of the conference.
Once these are all filled out, hit the submit button. Because there is no documentation to submit yet, and the expenses won't be thoroughly examined until the final claim, the turnaround time is generally on the order of days, rather than weeks.
Topic revision: r19 - 2019-06-18 - StanStanstan
 
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